Aila, with her partner, Dr Keith Scott, co-founded the Society in 1982. Both gave up promising careers in biochemistry to devote their lives and professional expertise to the protection of Australia’s rainforests.
Passion, persistence, scientific credibility, hard work, luck and capacity to seize unexpected windows of opportunity have been the keys to success. Teamwork and networking are vital too.
Thirty years later, 1.5 million hectares of rainforest and allied wet forests in five bioregions have been protected, three World Heritage areas have been listed, all rainforest logging on public land has ceased, 63 per cent of Queensland’s degraded lands will be restored to good condition, and a rescue plan is in progress for one of the world’s most significant refugia for subtropical rainforest where the earliest ancestry of planet Earth’s plant and animal Kingdoms survive.
Aila’s largely volunteer work over more than thirty years has been recognised by the most prestigious international, national and state honours and awards. She was an Adjunct Professor at The University of Queensland (2002–11) and is currently Adjunct Research Fellow at Griffith University.
In September 2012, Aila was awarded Honorary Membership of IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature), which recognizes outstanding services to the conservation of nature and natural resources, and is presented by the World Conservation Congress, on the recommendation of the IUCN Council, to individuals who have made exceptional contributions to furthering the goals of the Union. More information on Aila’s awards can be found on the ‘Awards’ page.
Dr Keith Scott, Treasurer
Keith, joint founder of ARCS, has been actively involved in conservation since the late sixties.
Keith began his professional career as a microbiologist, shifting to biochemistry in the late sixties. He served on the academic staff of The University of Queensland until 1991 when he resigned to work full-time as Director of ARCS.
With Aila Keto, he is co-author of a range of significant reports that led to major conservation gains, including Tropical Rainforests of North Queensland — Their Conservation Significance and Conservation Values and Integrity of the Western Hardwoods Area — Brigalow Belt and New England Tableland Bioregions, Southern Queensland (with Simon Kennedy and Andrew Kwan). Keith and Aila also prepared the World Heritage nominations for Wet Tropics of Queensland, Fraser Island and Central Eastern Rainforest Reserves of Australia (now Gondwana Rainforests of Australia).
Keith brought to ARCS his experience in computing and developed skills in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) that have been invaluable to ARCS analyses and reports.
Keith is one of Queensland Conservation Council’s inaugural ‘Champions of Conservation’.
Ingrid Neilson, Vice-President
Ingrid started her association with ARCS as Office Manager and Project Officer in 1996, a position she held for four years.
Ingrid played an important role in the Society in the lead-up to the historic South East Queensland Forests Agreement in 1999. During that time she made an invaluable contribution to botanical surveys that established outstanding significance of the region’s forests that had been historically neglected.
Ingrid was instrumental in coordinating the public campaign for ARCS.
She thereafter worked for a short while in the sustainable energy sector for Integrated Energy Services where the focus was on systemic economic benefits from sustainable building design.
Ingrid currently is Communications Manager with the Australian Marine Conservation Society.
In addition to her scientific and community liaison roles, Ingrid kept the ARCS office running efficiently at a time of intense conservation activities.
Ingrid is one of Queensland Conservation Council’s inaugural ‘Champions of Conservation’.
Dr Jan Blok, Secretary
Jan, a long-standing member of ARCS, has been pivotal in the organization on many fronts for 27 years.
Born in Surinam, Jan obtained her secondary education in New York City, thereafter specialising in biochemistry at the University of Sussex, Brighton, England. She completed her PhD at John Curtin School of Medical Research at the Australian National University (ANU) researching genetic variation amongst influenza viruses. This was followed by post-doctoral research on plant viruses at the Research School of Biological Sciences at ANU, and on dengue viruses at the Queensland Institute of Medical Research (QIMR) and at universities in Thailand, Malaysia and Sri Lanka.
Jan established SciFun, a company directed at restoring fun to the teaching of science to primary students, and within the Queensland Government’s Science on Saturday program.
Jan’s commitment to community service in general is exceptional.
Alec Marr, Director, International World Heritage Programme
Alec has lead successful environmental campaigns across Australia since 1985. He was Director of The Wilderness Society (TWS) from 1997 to 2010, growing the organization from 7,000 members, a $1 million turnover and 28 staff to one with 45,000 members, a $15 million turnover and 200 staff. Highlights of achievements under his direction include inscription of Australia’s Sub Antarctic Islands on the World Heritage list, closure of the Jabiluka uranium mine in World Heritage listed Kakadu National Park, blocking creation of a nuclear fuel dump in Northern Australia, and the ultimate breakdown of Gunns Ltd stranglehold on the forest woodchipping industry in Tasmania through skilled market pressure, facilitating (with Virginia Young) the creation of the Ecosystems Climate Alliance (ECA) in 2009. He had a key role in the successful extension in 2013 of the Eastern Boundary of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. Alec has maintained and nurtured extensive international networks through his work with IUCN, World Heritage processes and the World Wilderness Congress. He has represented ARCS at many of these forums and now is He was awarded the Australian Humanitarian Award on behalf of TWS in 2000, the Wild Magazine’s Environmentalists of the Year in 2001 and recognized as one of ‘20 Global Wilderness Visionaries’ by the World Wilderness Congress in 2010.
Virginia Young, National Liaison Officer & Director, International Forests and Climate Programme
Prior to her involvement in conservation Virginia was a successful business woman as well as heading the mining section of the Foreign Investment Division within Federal Treasury. Virginia has been involved in successful environmental campaigns across Australia since the late 1980s. She worked closely with ARCS in the lead-up to the successful South East Queensland Forests Agreement which she co-signed in 1999 on behalf of the Wilderness Society. There she played a leading role as the Wilderness Society’s National Forest Campaign Co-ordinator. She pioneered a continental-scale approach to nature conservation in Australia with the establishment of ‘Wild Country’. In support of this initiative she established the Wild Country Science Council of eminent Australian scientists to provide independent advice to guide that initiative. Since 2007 she established the Ecosystems Climate Alliance (ECA), an alliance of international ENGO’s that feed good science, policy and nature advocacy into the United Nations Framework Convention on climate Change (UNFCCC). She is currently Chair of Gondwana Link a ground-breaking project restoring and reconnecting lands across SW Western Australia; and Managing Director of Forests Alive, a company that offers carbon credits for native forest protection. Virginia was awarded Wild magazine’s Environmentalists of the Year in 2001 and was recognized as one of 20 ‘Global Wilderness Visionaries’ by the World Wilderness Congress in 2010.